Developmental Disabilities: Civil Rights Attorney Seeks Reform

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BY JAMES STREAM

The current state of Conservatorship for people with developmental disabilities is in need of reform.

Robbie Silver, Director of Communications for The Arc of Riverside County, sat down with Tom Coleman to discuss the present state of Conservatorship for people with developmental disabilities in California and beyond.  Coleman is a retired civil rights attorney from Los Angeles who has taken up the cause of reforming the conservatorship process for these individuals in our state.

From his vantage point working as a consultant with Spectrum Institute based in Los Angeles, he became aware of an number of individual cases where people with disabilities have had serious issues with the conservatorship process in Los Angeles County.

Jeff Allen

For two years he has researched and written extensively about the rights violations that are occurring within this system. For one thing, people with developmental disabilities are having their voting rights taken away within any input as to whether or not they might be qualified to vote.   His remedy was to facilitate legislation that was passed in Sacramento that will no longer deny this right to this vulnerable group.  Other issues have to do with attorneys for the person seeking conservatorship making arbitrary decisions without input from their client.  One example Coleman gives is a case where a person conserved was forced to give visitation rights, against his will, to a father who he alleges has abused him. He concludes and makes a strong case for the fact that there is little doubt that the rights of people with developmental disabilities are often compromised during the conservatorship process.

 

On the evening of June 17, at the awards banquet of The Arc of Riverside County, Mr. Coleman was presented with a tile that will be placed next to this agency’s National Wall of Respect that acknowledges his heroic advocacy. It reads “Tom Coleman – National Rights and Justice advocate for people with disabilities entering conservatorship.”  In this video clip, he summarizes the problems and his efforts to expose and change the current conservatorship system to allow equal justice for those with cognitive and developmental disabilities.

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